Feline Friday: Ariel Helvetica's Leopard Print Burlesque

Ariel Helvetica's Leopard Print Burlesque

by Jo Weldon

I'm launching a new feature for this blog, in which I'll interview some of my favorite performers about their fabulous leopard print costumes. Please share and comment if you enjoy!

Ariel Helvetica competed in the Best Debut category at The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender in 2018 in a spectacular leopard costume, and I knew I had to get a closer look! The weekender's pageant features some of the world's most innovative and exciting burlesque, and the way this costume broke down blew my mind. Plus, LEOPARD!

Above: Ariel Helvetica by Mike White.

Above: Ariel Helvetica by Tom Gould.

Who made the costume?
Christina Manuge of Manuge Et Toi www.manugeettoi.com made the bra, corset, garter, panty and skirt!
Misty Greer made the two sets of gloves and I made the hat. 

What inspired you to choose it? 

This costume got started in 2016, when I found the gold glitter leopard print mesh at the garment district in New York.  It went from there into the arms of Christina of Manuge Et Toi, who worked with me to satisfy my leopard print classic burlesque dreams.  I love leopard print, and always have, but it really was finding this already sparkly gold fabric that got this magic started.

What music do you use and how would you describe the act? 

The music is two songs, starting out with: Roger Roger- Sidewalk Blues and moving into Billy Larkin - Pigmy Part 2. The act starts out as a sultry, femme fatale bombshell and transitions into high energy showgirl fabulousness, complete with an on-your-head-upside-down stocking peel and shoe change!

Was it custom made for you? 

Yes, the costume was custom made for me. Check out the attached link of Christina's original design of it. 

 Tell me about the process of commissioning and fitting.  

Christina and I began chatting about different design aspects in 2016, not too long after I purchased the fabric.  After a lot of back and forth about ideas, she sent me the design sketch and I fell in love. From there it was a lot of back and forth with measurements and costume pieces being sent from Christina in Ottawa to me in Vancouver, which eventually lead up to the costume being ready in Summer of 2017.  Christina and I still haven't met in person!  So it really was via email and one skype call that we made it all happen.  
I wanted some extra pizazz to complete the look- so made myself the hat, with my friend Misty Greer making two sets of gloves to stay true to my usual self of being very extra :) 

Christina Manuge has graciously permitted us to share her drawings while planning the costume. I think this will give you an idea of how some of the most exquisite burlesque costumes are an intricate engineering process of layers, to create those exciting reveals!

To learn more about Ariel and her fantastic performances and her entrepreneurialism, visit
www.arielhelvetica.com or see her on IG @ariel_helvetica 

I published Fierce: The History of Leopard Print in June 2018, and in it I talk briefly about the fabulous leopard print clothes and costumes in burlesque. I believe burlesque costumes have been underappreciated in the study of fashion and costume. I'm glad Colleen Scott's book on the history of burlesque costuming will be out this year! I'm partly inspired by her work and eager to have the world finally appreciate why we are so obsessed with our unique costuming!


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